As a rental property owner, there is little more disheartening than walking into a home that you’ve poured your time, energy, and money into only to find out that a tenant has completely disrespected you and your home and trashed the house.
So what’s the next step now that you’ve found it trashed? Here are a few ideas on what you can do when you find yourself stuck in this confusing and frustrating spot.
Make sure you know your landlord’s rights when a tenant destroys property belonging to you. To make sure you are fair to your tenant, make sure to follow these steps as well.
As a landlord, if your tenant is destroying your property, the first thing you should do is give the tenant notice that you’re going to come to see the house. In some areas, it is required that you provide your tenant with a 48-hour notice that you need to put on the door sent via certified mail.
Once the date has come to inspect the house, you’ll want to take pictures and write down a ton of information about the property.
Destroying the house is a violation of the lease. In these circumstances, your tenant has violated the lease for rent but also violated it for what’s called material noncompliance. Based on your inspection, it is ultimately your decision to make. You have two options: either evict the tenant or live with it.
If the damage to your home is bad enough, you’ll want to evict that person as soon as possible. You can do that by going through specific steps, depending on your location.
You may find that it’s not that bad, and you may be willing to live with it. While this might sound strange, there are times where the damage is not that bad, and moving the tenant out would just cause you to spend too much money renovating it again, so it’s better just to roll with it.
If you have gotten the tenant out or you just found your house in a less than desirable state, here are a few things you can do.
If you plan to pursue getting payment from your tenant in one form or another, taking a bunch of pictures is critical. If you end up in front of a judge, pictures are a hard piece of evidence for the tenant to argue against. Also, it’s recommended to have all of your pictures time stamped so the tenant can’t argue that the damages happened after they left. It may even be worth a video just to make sure you don’t miss anything.
Even if you do the work to fix up the damages yourself, it is wise to get some third-party estimates, so you have a better idea of what charges to ask for. Using this information, you can charge out the security deposit and pursue damages based on a reasonable third-party estimate even if you do the work yourself.
Rather than wasting precious time getting the work done, focus on completing the work as quickly as possible. Getting the home cleaned up and back out on the market will limit your losses.
Once you have completed all of the work, make sure you send the tenant a full accounting of their security deposit (itemized) on time and following the laws in your area. Currently, in some areas, you must do this within 60 days from them moving out. Whatever you do, do not miss this deadline. Doing so could result in the tenant counter-suing you and winning.
Consider yourself lucky if the tenant communicates with you, although usually, those who communicate are pretty upset. But, keep in mind, these are the ones that will be payers, so take your time and walk through it with them step by step.
It isn’t fair if they are confused and just looking for clarification, and you don’t spend the time with them to get them the clarity they need to feel comfortable with your accounting. In doing so, you can even find miscalculations on certain items that can result in additional payment for you.
If the tenant doesn’t communicate, pursue collections immediately. According to collections professionals, time is the most critical factor in getting money over not getting money. Give your tenants 14 days to respond and let them know that you will either file suit against them or send them to collections if you don’t hear from them.
Filing a suit is simply filing a lawsuit in court, getting a judgment, and filing a wage garnishment. Alternatively, sending a tenant to collections means sending them to a collection agent.
One rule of thumb for determining which route to pursue would be to draw the line on where to send it based on the tenant’s income. For example, if the tenant makes less than $30,000 per year, send them to collections. There is a minimum amount of money the courts will allow a tenant to make before they garnish their wages and that $30,000 mark tends to be a good breaking point.
Now that you have a good idea of what to do once the tenant is out of your property, it’s essential also to know what not to do in these situations.
As hard as it is, it does you no good to get mad at the tenants. It may make you do something that you will regret and completely screw up your future pursuits. It is hard to get a judge to feel sorry for you when you get mad and react inappropriately.
Truthfully, if your tenant left your home in the condition they did, they don’t care about what housekeeping tips you have for them.
As angry as it might make you see your rental property in despair from your last tenants, it’s essential to remain calm and handle the situation professionally. In doing so, you better your chances of seeing payment for the damages caused. But, you must know your landlord rights when a tenant destroys property belonging to you.
Matthew is the CEO of Evernest. He is a student of the book Good to Great and is passionate about building the best property management company on the planet (and maybe even the universe if Elon Musk will hurry up). You can usually find Matthew at the baseball field with his son, at a dance recital with his daughter, or at his favorite restaurant with his wife, when he’s not in the office. And if you can’t find him in any of those places, it probably means he’s traveling.